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CYBER BRIEFS

Firm boosts ebook offerings

New York, Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Barnes & Noble.com, the second-largest U.S. Internet bookseller, will publish about 15 electronic books a month as part of plans to become a leading publisher of titles for reading on personal computers and hand-held devices.

The company today released the first of the monthly offerings, including a Mark Twain novella and Helter Skelter by Vincent Buglioisi and Curt Gentry, spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said. The books cost less than their print counterparts and can be downloaded onto computers and specially designed electronics.

Barnes & Noble.com in January announced the formation of its Barnes & Noble Digital unit, and last month debuted its first title, The Book of Counted Sorrows, a novel written by best-selling author Dean Koontz exclusively for publication as an electronic book. Barnes & Noble.com also has established a section on its site for sales of more than 5,000 of the so-called "ebooks."

Microsoft in talks with China

SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- Microsoft Corp. is in talks with several Chinese companies, including computer maker Legend Holdings, about developing pocket and tablet-sized computers able to recognize Chinese characters.

Bill Gates, who is attending a meeting of chief executives on the sidelines of the the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai, told a news conference that Microsoft "is willing to take a long-term view" of China even if it contributes a "very small percentage of our sales."

Piracy is rampant in China. A report from a group of software developers estimates that more than 90 percent of the software being used by local businesses isn't licensed.

But Gates said he expects China's anti-piracy campaign to bear fruit as similar efforts have in other countries. He also said Microsoft's business in China "has shown nice growth every year," though he didn't give specific figures.

Getting doggone good pictures

Photographing dogs isn't easy: In addition to such species-wide calamities as red eye, you also have to contend with tooth-snagged tongues and distracting collar tags.

At www.dogphoto.com/dogRead/, you'll find useful and upbeat critiques of pooch photos previously discussed on DogRead, an online book discussion group. While there, you can order a CD-ROM or digital download of "How to Photograph Dogs," by site owners Kerrin Winter and Dale Churchill, which discusses everything from choosing the right lens to going pro. Oo join the DogRead list' visit http://groups.yahoo.com/, and search for "DogRead." And horse lovers can clock in to the related www.EquinePhoto.com.

Newsday

Verizon slashes DSL prices

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Verizon Communications, the biggest U.S. local-phone company, is lowering the price of fast Internet service by 40 percent for three months to meet a target of 1.2 million to 1.3 million customers by year end.

Starting Friday and until the end of November, Verizon will offer new customers the service, known as digital subscriber line, for $29.95 a month for three months. The company has charged $49.95 for DSL. Verizon has 1 million customers for the service, which speeds the flow of information on telephone lines.

New customers won't need to commit to an annual contract or pay an activation or termination fee, New York-based Verizon said in a statement. They'll also get a PC camera. The promotion will save customers $310 in equipment and services, Verizon said.

Bidding on European hotels

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) -- Priceline.com is starting a service that lets its U.S. customers reserve European hotel rooms on a name-your-own-price basis.

The service announced last week ranges from economical to the most luxurious hotels in 50 cities and towns in Europe.

The European hotel service is designed to complement Priceline.com's name-your-own-prices airline tickets service for flights between U.S. cities and 250 international destinations.

Priceline.com works with some 7,000 hotels and resort properties in the U.S., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Canada, Mexico and now, Europe.

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